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I am currently teaching a kid (~6 years) chess and we started with the pieces. While she had no trouble picking up the rules for the rook, the bishop, the queen and the king, the knight seems more difficult.

I explained that the knight takes two steps horizontal or vertical and then it makes a turn and one more step. While with the other pieces she immediately "sees" which moves are possible, for the knight she is now counting, counting and counting. I think she already got better and sometimes just "sees" where she can move, but often she does not.

Now I have the following questions: Will this problem just vanish with increasing practice? Or is the way I introduced the knight move not suitable?

Should I try and explain the knight move differently, e.g., more visually? In this case I would be thankful for any suggestions. So far I have refrained from giving alternative explanation to avoid confusion.

  • 5
    As a kid, I learned it as "the knight makes an L" in some direction. That helped me visualize it. That being said, your explanation is fine, and I'm sure she'll start to see it much easier as soon as she plays more. – NoseKnowsAll Aug 4 '15 at 20:31
  • You should make this the answer. – limits Aug 4 '15 at 21:40
  • +1 for "much easier as soon as she plays more". It becomes natural when you exercise more. In Chinese chess, the only way to describe knight's move is "one step next to it, then one step diagonally" (in Chinese chess, knights can be blocked in one direction if there is a piece next to it, so the first part of the move can't be done) – jf328 Aug 5 '15 at 8:17
  • Community wiki? – Jossie Calderon Jul 4 '17 at 0:21
  • The knight moves to a square that's two squares away and of a different color from the square it starts from. – bof Jul 4 '17 at 0:47
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This problem does vanish with time, but it takes longer depending on the person... Personally when I teach others about the knight movement I explain it with the "L" letter.

If they draw the letter L horizontally and vertically they will get all the squares he can go to. This is in my opinion simpler to understand as they will be using a letter they already know, it's not something they will need to learn in order to use it.

This would obviously not work if she does not know English letters, but hopefully this gives you an idea on how to make it easier.

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  • Thanks for your comment. I also like the L-method. However, she does not go to school yet, and I thought it might be more complicated than necessary to first teach a letter and then use it to show how the piece moves. But maybe I am wrong. – Jester Aug 6 '15 at 12:16
  • Hmm... Well you could always tell her to learn it by "jumping". Simply explain that just like a real horse it jumps (skips the square in front of it) and then turns to either left or right. That should work as well. It will create a vivid image in her head (especially if she's a fan of horses) and turning right or left should be a simple idea to implement. - To recap - Knight jumps skipping a square as if he's jumping over something, then turns either left or right (or up and down depending on the side) – Chessbrain Aug 14 '15 at 13:55
  • Be sure to make clear that only an L of the correct size and shape is allowed. (Moves that aren't knight-moves, e.g. 3 along and 1 up, are also L-shaped.) – Rosie F Jan 23 '18 at 11:21
  • IMO, saying that a knight moves in L shape is more visual; if they have doubt, you can clarify it as moving two horizontal and one vertical, or two vertical and one horizontal. – Cyriac Antony Jan 24 at 9:01
  • @ Jester, If you think she is learning letters, it is perfectly fine for her to find it by counting (even if she repeats it a lot). – Cyriac Antony Jan 24 at 9:05
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The rule I teach kids which seems to work is that the knight can go to the closest squares the queen can't go to.

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I also use the "L shaped method (facing either frontwards or backwards) to explain the move to my students and show them all 8 squares that it could move to in one step on an open board, emphasizing that it is the only piece that can jump over another. I think this visual method is easier to understand than counting. Any problem with this will vanish with time and experience, even though old timers like myself will still occasionally miss a knight fork in a complicated position. :)

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One way I haven't seen mentioned yet but I use:

The knight moves to the opposite corner of a 2x3 rectangle.

Spatially for me it's easier to visualise and recognise a rectangle instead of counting steps in an L-shape.

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Some kids like to visualize boxes. This is especially good when doing a pencil and paper activity x-ing all the spots a knight could jump. Good for kids that don't get that an L can be backwards or any direction or how long the legs of the L are.
Draw a box around the knight through all the squares touching the knight (it can't go there but will jump through there). Now draw a bigger box one step out through all the outer squares touching the ones in the first box (2 steps from the knight). It can go to all the opposite color squares on the big outer box.

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I learned it as: "one straight, one diagonal". Perhaps not ideal (you'd have to explain not to go backwards when you make the diagonal step), but could be an alternative to the L-method.

As she plays more and develops board vision I am sure that movement will become natural.

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The player looks at an area of the board where an extra bishop would be helpful.

Count three (long) squares from the knight in all four directions. Draw a diamond. The knight's sword is not sharp, so the corners go away.

Now you have your portable bishop creator.


The knight is an esoteric object that casts a (circular) shadow of influence.

enter image description here

Knights are a known resource when the center of the board is closed. Their circle of influence can significantly increase the strength of pieces in hard-to-reach corners of the board.

In an open game like the one above, a knight still benefits from being in the middle. (Where does the white knight cast its shadow?)

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Most probably "L" Should be simple to remember.But if she fails to remember that method you could try with this Rook1 and Bishop1 Method .

  1. First Consider knight as Rook and move 1 step.
  2. Then consider knight as Bishop and move 1 step in same direction(in which rook was moved).
  3. And just ask them to remember knight can not reach same color as current knight's square and at most knight have 8 possibilities to move on .

Knight Moves

Black lines - Rook moves
Green lines - Bishop moves

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  • 1
    I think there is an issue here: rook/bishop move, knight jumps. – BigOther Aug 7 '15 at 8:10
  • @bigOTHER what is the issue? – ManirajSS Aug 7 '15 at 8:57
  • I mean you said move like a rook one step, what if a piece is already there? knight dont care about other pieces in his way to the destination but rook/bishop do – BigOther Aug 7 '15 at 9:03
  • Ya.I got it.I have to wirte it as knight jumps .right? @bigOTHER – ManirajSS Aug 7 '15 at 9:04
  • I don't really know the best word cause jumping used generally for taking over a piece – BigOther Aug 7 '15 at 9:06

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